American millionaires “have complicated views when it comes to the wealth gap and opportunity in America," according to first-ever CNBC Millionaire Survey.
Half of American millionaires believe inequality is a “major problem” for the U.S., according to CNBC’s first ever Millionaire Survey released Tuesday. The survey’s findings indicate that American millionaires “have complicated views when it comes to the wealth gap and opportunity in America,” writes CNBC reporter and editor Robert Frank.
The CNBC Millionaire Survey, conducted in March by Spectrem Group on behalf of CNBC, polled 514 people with investable assets of $1 million or more, which represents the top 8 percent of American households. The respondents came from around the country and were split between Democrats, Republicans and Independents.
Millionaires attribute their wealth and success primarily to hard work (23 percent), smart investing (21 percent), savings (18 percent) and education (10 percent), and believe that anyone in America can become wealthy if they work hard. But they also advocate improved education, higher taxes on the wealthy and better savings incentives for the poor and middle class as important changes that would reduce inequality, Frank reports.
The American Dream is still a touchstone among most millionaires, the survey finds. More than nine-in-ten (94 percent) said the American dream is achievable. When asked to define that dream, the largest number (45 percent) said the American dream is "prosperity and upward mobility through hard work." Only 18 percent defined it as "spiritual and temporal happiness more than material goods." Multimillionaires, however, were far more likely to define the dream as material rather than spiritual (63 percent vs. 4 percent).
While more than half of millionaires and multimillionaires agreed that "inequality of wealth in our nation is a major problem," they don't see themselves as a cause. Eight-in-ten said they don't feel embarrassed by their wealth, "because I earned it," and only 5 percent said they feel a sense of guilt about the wealth they possess.
When asked about the reasons for inequality, most (78 percent) said the wealthy have greater access to education. Two-thirds cited that the "lack of financial literacy" prevents poor households from making better financial decisions.
The best way to reduce inequality, millionaires say, is through improved education. Fully 83 percent supported an increase in educational opportunities for the less wealthy. An equal number (64 percent) supported better savings incentives for the less wealthy and higher taxes for the wealthy.
Perhaps surprisingly, a majority (63 percent) also support a minimum wage. Only 13 percent supported reducing unemployment benefits to encourage more work as a solution to inequality.
When it comes to solutions regarding wealth inequality, Millionaires are just as split along political lines as the rest of the country, the survey finds. Eighty-six percent of Democratic millionaires said inequality is a problem, compared with only 20 percent of Republicans, while two-thirds of Republicans vs. a one-fourth of Democrats say anyone can become wealthy in America if they work hard.
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Donald Liebenson writes news and features for Millionaire Corner. He has been published in the Chicago Tribune, The Chicago Sun-Times, The Los Angeles Times, Fiscal Times, Entertainment Weekly, Huffington Post, and other outlets. He has also served as a marketing writer for Chicago-based Questar Entertainment and distributor Baker & Taylor.
A graduate of the University of Southern California, he is married with a college-age son. He also writes extensively about entertainment.